A new bill that proposes increased penalties for drivers who injure or fatally harm pedestrians in a crosswalk has been making its way through the state Senate, New Jersey criminal attorneys report. Co-sponsored by state Senator Sandra B. Cunningham, the bill, S-1354, was released by the Senate Transportation Committee last month, and is now waiting on the full state Senate to make its decision. New Jersey criminal attorneys say that the bill’s proposed measures would up the stakes for drivers, and enforce safety for pedestrians when using crosswalks.
The bill was developed after the 2010 death of Mary Tait, a woman from Bayonne who was killed while crossing the street. A driver passed several double-parked trucks and overtook a slow-moving car, but failed to yield at the intersection, where Tait was crossing in the crosswalk. Under the New Jersey law in place at that time, a judge charged the driver who hit Tait with two traffic violations and a four-month license suspension, and ordered him to pay a $239 fine.
S-1534 seeks to take that punishment further, proposing changes to the pedestrian safety law. Currently, vehicle accidents that cause injury or death to a pedestrian are included in the existing pedestrian safety laws, which do not outline specific penalties for fatal accidents. Drivers who hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk have two points added to their licenses, face 15 days of community service, and can be fined $200. These punishments are not specifically enhanced if the collision between the car and pedestrian is fatal.
The new bill requires that anyone who causes the death of pedestrian using a crosswalk to pay up to $1,000 in fines and serve six months of community service, with a possible 90 days of prison time. It also proposes the addition of vehicular manslaughter charges to the pedestrian safety law, enabling harsh punishments without the burden of proving gross negligence on the part of the driver. The bill also seeks to ban drivers from passing in front of other cars that have stopped for pedestrians in a crosswalk, directly relating to the move that caused Tait’s death, New Jersey criminal lawyers say.
Pedestrian safety is an important issue, and drivers must be aware of increasing penalties, especially ones that could result in jail time and higher fines. The New Jersey criminal attorneys at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA urge drivers and pedestrians to use caution on the roads and intersections to ensure safety.